Religion plays a huge role in Gilead. It creates hope, faith, despair and loss. Religion is significant to many of the events, which take place in Gilead, and justifies nearly all Gilead’s actions. However Religion also helps Offred to cope with her position and status. Many ceremonies take place within Gilead to carry out important rituals. Gilead uses the bible to justify behaviours in Gileadian society. These justifications take place in rituals like birth ceremonies, impregnation ceremonies and salvaging ceremonies.
The commander reads from the bible before the impregnation ceremony, this gives him a sense of power and foreboding as he is justifying his own actions as well as Gileadian’s reforms. The commander reads ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ this suggests that women were made souly to reproduce as ‘fruitful’ has connotations of fertility. This gives justification to the role the handmaids lead as if they should be proud to be carrying out such an important function. This also pre-empts the handmaid into becoming pregnant as it creates a great deal of pressure on them and is there as a reminder on what they are there for.
This highlights the literal reasons for sexual intercourse and religion takes away love and emotion and replaces it with simple reproduction. The commander also includes in the family prayers the same phrase incorporated in the epilogue ‘behold my maid Bilhah. She shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. ‘ The relation between this script and Gileadian society is shockingly similar and is likely to be the main source of rationalization Gilead uses. We see here where the name handmaid comes from as ‘Bilhah’ is called a ‘maid’.
Bilhah is Offred; there to be used as a surrogate mother, however Offred’s position has been highly imposed upon her. This is a very important phrase as it outlines the basic reforms of Gilead. We also see how powerful the Bible is to Gilead, as it clearly can be interpretive as a clear justification for Gileadian society. Gilead uses script to substantiate the role and lifestyle of the handmaids. ‘blessed are the meek, blessed are the silent’ this is the justification Gilead give their society for keeping the handmaids in solitude findings.
We see that the handmaids are allowed to say very little in chapter when speaking to the tourists from Japan. The handmaid’s speech is clearly censored and by saying they are ‘blessed’ is meant to give the handmaids belief in the reward of their silence, and that god will be pleased with them. However it seems as though a lot of the time god in a sense is Gilead, and it is Gilead who benefits from the handmaids being silent and their reward is not sending them to the concentration camps. Offred takes little notice of this script and responds ‘I knew they made that up, I knew it was wrong’.
This shows us religion is not enough to make Offred believe her status within Gilead is right. This gives the reader hope as we see Offred’s resistance to Gilead’s indoctrination. Offred along with many other Handmaids experience the attempts of indoctrination at the ‘Rachel and Leah’ centre. We see here that even the name of the centre is related to the bible, and again gives justification to its purpose. We see that the aunts constantly read scripts from the bible to teach the handmaids Gileadian reforms. This presents the social hierarchy.
Offred’s reaction to this indoctrination is ‘then comes the mouldy old Rachel and Leah stuff we had drummed into us at the centre’. Again we see Offred’s resistance to scriptural justification, we also see the lack of respect and a great deal of emotional rebellion. ‘mouldy’ gives the impression of the ‘Rachel and Leah’ story rotting away, slowly disappearing like the infestation of a fruit, but in these terms the words of the story are rotting out of Offred’s mind as they are read because she does not believe any of it.